City of Circles by Jess Richards, published by Sceptre on 10th August 2017
Danu is a tightrope walker who is mourning her parents, after a disease has ravaged the circus where she grew up. Her mother has entrusted her with a locket that hides a secret.
Over the years, Danu pushes away her grief and develops elaborate and successful high-wire acts with Morrie, a charismatic hunchback who wants to marry her. When the circus returns to Danu's birthplace, Matryoshka, Danu is enchanted by the temples, spice mists, and pleasure seekers within the intoxicating outer circle district.
Will she and Morrie ever be reunited, or will something far more unexpected be waiting for her in the mysterious heart of the city?
'City of Circles' is an unusual and unique read. I hadn't heard a lot about it before reading the novel but I was attracted to it by the premise of the story. It features a character called Danu, who at the beginning of the book loses both of her parents. She struggles to deal with her grief within a community of fellow circus performers. Soon after their deaths, she begins a high-wire act with Morrie, a hunchback performer who loves and wants to marry her. Danu however, is restless and unsettled; unsure about where she sees her life headed. When the circus arrives in Matryoshka, the city of 3 circles and Danu's birthplace, she is drawn to her new surroundings and attempts to find the answer to a secret from her past.
There were some things about this book that I loved and others that I wasn't quite so keen on. I really enjoyed the circus theme which is something that I'm seeing more and more of lately in books. It's interesting to see characters that are always on the move and with such unique occupations. There's always something truly magical and mysterious about the circus too. Although the story is mainly told from Danu's point of view, I thoroughly enjoyed the parts that showed things from Morrie's perspective. He is a character that I wasn't sure I was going to like at the beginning but he really grew on me throughout the book, particularly as I began to understand more about the depth of his feelings for Danu.
I felt frustrated by Danu at times but she was also a wonderfully interesting protagonist and I loved the second half of the book when she is exploring Matryoshka and all its wonders. The city was amazing and brilliantly imagined by Richards. It definitely made me wish that it wasn't purely fictional.
The big disappointment for me was the ending. It wasn't at all what I was expecting and after such a big build up throughout the story, it felt like a bit of a let down. This was a real shame because I did enjoy 'City of Circles' and up until the very end I would have gladly recommended it to others. It felt somewhat rushed and wasn't the conclusion that I was hoping for.